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Made for the Shade: Well Adapted Plants for Shady Areas

Annuals& Perennials | Shrubs | Small Trees | Vines | Ground Cover |

Annuals & Perennials

  • Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) -- 3-6",purple leaves, blooms, mesic. Nematodes can be a problem.
  • aspidistra (aspidistra elatior) -- Rightly called "Cast Iron Plant", mesic, grows slowly, evergreen.
  • Chamomile (Chamaemelum spp.) -- Annual herb, mesic, pm shade, bloom used for tea
  • Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) - Part sun to shade, 15-18 inches. The yellow blooming Texas Gold and the red and yellow Aquilegia canadensis perform well here. xeric, dormant in summer if not watered. Prone to leafminers, use Neem oil to treat.
  • Coral Bells (Huechera sanguinea) -- mesic, blooms, PM shade, green or purple leaves
  • Clerodendrum (Clerodendrum bungei) -- Deciduous perennial, 3-6 ft. Large, showy pink flowers in summer. Good hummingbird plant. Spreads aggressively by underground suckers.
  • Elephant Ears (Colocasia esculenta) -- Perennial bulb, dies back in winter, grows to 6 ft. with large, dramatic leaves. Mulch to protect from freezing. mesic.
  • Foxtail Fern - related to asparagus fern, soft bushy stems, mesic. Tops may freeze.
  • Frog Fruit (Phyla nodiflora) -- Low growing ground cover 3'4", xeric, blooms
  • Hoja Santa (Piper auritum) -- 4-6 ft., invasive, mesic, used for cooking
  • Hollyfern (Cytomium falcatum) -- evergreen, mesic. Good for containers.
  • Horsetail Reed (Equisetum hyemale) -- Bogs, wet shade, invasive
  • Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) -- Perennial native grass. Good for erosion control. Wet or dry, sun or shade, this is a hardy plant. Remove seeds to control spread.
  • Lamium (Lamium maculatum) -- many varieties, blooms, low growing with variegated foliage.
  • Liriope (Liriope muscari) -- mesic, blooms, cut to 4 inches in Spring to revive.
  • Monkeygrass or Mondograss (Ophiopogon japonicus) -- xeric, low-growing groundcover. Avoid the dwarf form, not adapted to alkaline soils.
  • Nolina or Beargrass (Nolina nelsonii) -- Grass like foliage, xeric, OK in deep shade, good for slopes, erosion control
  • Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) -- Blooms, mesic , good soil and drainage.
  • Oxalis, Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.) -- Blooms, xeric or mesic, invasive.
  • Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis) -- Blooms, xeric, berries for wildlife.
  • Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) -- Blooms, self-sows freely, xeric.
  • Ruellia, Mexican Petunia (Ruellia spp.) -- Best are Katie and Bonita dwarf forms and taller Chi-Chi pink. mesic or xeric, invasive.
  • Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana and J. tomentosa) - xeric, blooms, very hardy. Deer resistant.
  • Spiderlily (Hymenocallis spp.) -- Afternoon shade, blooms, mesic.
  • Spiderwort (Tradescantia andersoniana) -- Purple blooms, xeric
  • Sweet violets (Viola odorata) -- Spring blooms edible, mesic.
  • Texas Aster (Aster texanus) -- Fall blooms, tall when blooming, xeric. Cut blooms to control seeds.
  • Texas Betony (Stachys coccinea) -- part shade, coral blooms, one of my favorites
  • Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) -- red, white, pink or coral, freely self-sows. xeric.
  • Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) -- 4-5 ft. Blooms, seeds for wildlife. Deciduous.
  • Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternafolius) -- Bog or wet areas, tops may freeze. Invasive.
  • Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) -- Colorful foliage, blooms. mesic.
  • Wood Fern (Dryopteris spp.) -- Deciduous, mesic


  • Aralia (Aralia japonica) -- Needs good soil, drainage. May freeze.
  • Aucuba (Aucuba japonica) -- Evergreen shrub, 4-6 ft. tall, mottled yellow color on leaves. Leaves will blacken if exposed to sun. Prone to spider mites when stressed. mesic
  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) -- Deciduous, mesic, blooms, magenta or white berries.
  • Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) -- xeric, blooms, drops leaves in summer.
  • Snowball Bush Viburnum (Viburnum spp.) -- also, Spring Bouquet (Viburnum caricephalum) -- Blooms, xeric, good for wildlife
  • White Boneset (Eupatorium havanense) -- Fall blooms, deciduous, xeric.

Small Trees

  • Texas Buckeye (Aesculus glabra) -- usually 10-20 ft. tall. Yellow or red flowers, seeds are poisonous. Loses leaves in summer. xeric
  • Rough Leaved Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) -- xeric, blooms, invasive
  • Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum (Viburnum rufidulum) -- xeric, blooms, fall color


  • Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) -- xeric, fragrant blooms

Ground Cover

  • Asian Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) -- can freeze, xeric
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix) -- mesic, invasive, keep off of trees
  • Horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis) -- evergreen groundcover 6-8 in., yellow blooms. May be used as a lawn in deep shade. xeric, tolerates moderate traffic.

*Mesic are plants which require well prepared soil, good drainage and moderate to high levels of moisture.

**Xeric plants are adapted to poor soils and lower levels of water.